The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, has become embroiled in homophobia allegations this weekend after scientists involved with its LGBT group reported abuse, offensive graffiti and hate-filled emails.
The particle physics laboratory most famous for its work on the Large Hadron Collider, used to prove the existence of the sub-atomic Higgs boson particle, has more than 2,500 members of staff and hosts many thousands of other fellows, associates, apprentices.
The Sunday Times reported this weekend that at least one researcher had to be formally disciplined after CCTV cameras revealed them removing and defacing posters advertising CERN’s LGBT events.
LGBT members of the pioneering research organisation claim that this kind of abuse has been going on for years – Other posters advertising LGBT gatherings had been defaced with the german word for pig [Schwein] and Old Testament bible quotes, saying that it was an “abomination” for men to have sex with other men, along with suggestions that they should be “put to death”.
British physicist and LGBT CERN founder Aidan Randle-Conde told The Sunday Times: “The continuing defacing of our posters is an unacceptable campaign of hate and intolerance.
“We do keep a track of how many posters get taken down or defaced and over a two-week period roughly one-third can be removed. I don’t know who is responsible, although it is probably the work of a few people. In some cases there have been religious texts attached to the posters.”
A spokesperson for the laboratory told the British newspaper: “Cern really cannot accept something like this and it is why we have taken disciplinary measures against at least one person we could identify as being responsible for these disrespectful actions. Homophobic behaviour is not and will not be tolerated at Cern.”
While a recent blog post on LGBT CERN’s website reads: “In a lab of thousands of people from all over the world and of all ages, it is not surprising to find a small minority who have a problem with our group.
“They have always been at the lab; the difference is that now they are making themselves known.
“CERN is fully behind us in facing up to this bigotry and taking action, and takes its legal and ethical obligations to fight bigotry in the workplace very seriously. Even the Director General has stepped in on occasion to offer his support.”
And a spokesperson for LGBT CERN told The Independent: “The recent article published in the Sunday Times is factually accurate, but some of us feel it conveyed the sense that the situation is much worse than it is. Poster removal is unfortunately a common occurrence, but more serious events, such as the “Schwein” grafitti or threats like the Leviticus posting are thankfully rare.
“We appreciate that action has been taken against the one person caught removing a poster and are also pleased that we have an open line of communication with the CERN Diversity Office. Issues affecting LGBTQ* scientists go far beyond the laboratory, and in some parts of the world it is not safe for out LGBTQ* people to walk the streets. As scientists who attend conferences across the world, this places limits on our safety and ability to collaborate internationally.”